If we do not have a connection to Christ, we are not Christians, no matter what our profession may be. We may, by our acts, appear to be moral, but we will not be righteous, because there is only one place to obtain righteousness. We must ask Him for the desire and the life. Our great need is not for more rules and more works and more religion, but more of Him. This is what we really need, but the desire is not natural. We need to be under the control of the Holy Spirit.
“We must be daily controlled by the Spirit of God or we are controlled by Satan.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 102. There are only two options, and every morning, when we get out of bed, we decide which one is going to control us. We do need to be under the control of the Spirit, and that comes through surrender. But to be controlled by the Spirit does not mean to be replaced by Him. When the evil spirits take over, they take over. They want to totally possess us, but the Holy Spirit does not want to possess us. He wants to empower us. The Holy Spirit works in cooperation with our faculties. He does not force; He empowers.
If we ask Him, He will teach us to love the things He loves and to hate the things He hates. When the Holy Spirit is in control, we will have total freedom—real, genuine freedom. Then we will have the power and the ability and the desire to do what is right. We will even have the right motives. Egotism will no longer be the motive, as in the worldly systems. We will be free indeed, and then the mind and the heart and the life will all be alive in Christ. Without this experience, truth is only a theory to fight about at best, and at worst, it makes us angry, and we rebel against it, calling people who obey it fanatics. If it goes far enough, we kill them, because it makes us feel guilty. That is what happened between Cain and Abel, and that is what happened with the Jewish leaders in Christ’s day. We do not like people making us feel guilty.
Nothing but the influence of Christ through the Holy Spirit can change us. We must have the original union that God gave to man. “Satan will constantly present allurements to induce us to break this tie—to choose to separate ourselves from Christ. Here is where we need to watch, to strive, to pray, that nothing may entice us to choose another master; for we are always free to do this.” Steps to Christ, 72.
Keeping the Union
Do you ever wonder how to keep that union? “Unceasing prayer is the unbroken union of the soul with God, so that life from God flows into our life; and from our life, purity and holiness flow back to God.” Ibid., 98.
Ellen White also wrote: “We may keep so near to God that in every unexpected trial our thoughts will turn to Him as naturally as the flower turns to the sun.” Ibid., 99, 100. How I would like to have that experience! Would you? When unexpected trials come, our hearts would automatically turn to God like the flowers do to the sun!
Being Born Again
Now, let us get down to brass tacks. How are we born again? In other words, what must we do to be saved? Well, that depends! How the process works depends on our mental stage when the invitation comes. Let us look at two different men who asked this same question.
“And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:17–22.
Now, look at Acts 16:25–34, and see this question asked again by another man. “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed [their] stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”
Two Men—Two Answers
Two men asked the same question. It appears that they were given two different answers. Why did not Jesus give the same answer as Paul? For the young Jew, Jesus gave a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to eternal life, and, unfortunately, it proved to be just that for him. But for the Gentile jailer, Paul gave a very simple answer. Why not the same answer? Did Paul’s response make salvation easy, while Christ’s answer made it difficult, if not almost impossible? Is salvation not freely offered to all? Matthew 11:28 invites, “Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden.” Is the gospel that we claim as simple as that?
Unfortunately, it is not always that simple. To get someone to make a right response—to surrender and trust God totally, placing themselves wholly on His side, depending on Him completely—can be very difficult. It depends very much upon where he or she is at in his or her mind, when the invitation is given. Notice that the invitation comes every day with every temptation, but the response depends on their state of mind when the invitation comes. If they are at a place where they are in dire straits, spiritually bankrupt, the invitation and response could be simple. They may readily put their whole weight on Christ and depend totally on Him. He can then help them.
But if they are at the place where they may just need a little push to get into the kingdom, as the rich young ruler, then things get a lot more complicated. The answer then depends upon their understanding of their condition and what their true need is.
How Are We?
Are we basically good, just in need of a little bit of development? Or can we, like Paul, say, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing”? Romans 7:18. Do we just need a little push, or do we, like Paul, have no good thing in us? Are we totally bankrupt, or are we proud of all the knowledge we have of the truth? That certainly can be a problem for historic Seventh-day Adventists; since we study more than the average person, we tend to have more knowledge, and it is easy to get proud of that.
A statement in the Review and Herald, July 23, 1889, says, “The message to the Laodicean church is applicable to our condition. How plainly is pictured the position of those who think they have all the truth, who take pride in their knowledge of the word of God, while its sanctifying power has not been felt in their lives. The fervor of the love of God is wanting in their hearts, but it is this very fervor of love that makes God’s people the light of the world.”
The Jewish people in Christ’s day were very proud of the fact that the oracles of God had been committed to them. They thought that they were quite righteous. If we are a people that have a lot of good in us that just needs a little bit of developing, I fear for us. If we are in that condition, we are in trouble. We have some hard lessons to learn. Those lessons were the purpose of John the Baptist’s message.
John the Baptist’s Message
Ellen White, commenting on John the Baptist’s message, wrote, “The message that God had given him [John the Baptist] to bear was designed to startle them [God’s people] from their lethargy, and cause them to tremble because of their great wickedness. Before the seed of the gospel could find lodgment, the soil of the heart must be broken up. Before they would seek healing from Jesus, they must be awakened to their danger from the wounds of sin.
“God does not send messengers to flatter the sinner. He delivers no message of peace to lull the unsanctified into fatal security.” The Desire of Ages, 103, 104.
Ask Not—Receive Not
That was the purpose of John the Baptist’s message—to arouse God’s people out of that lethargic condition, to help them to realize their true need. Today, we are in need of that same thing, but we do not even realize we have that need. We cannot come up with it on our own.
James 4:2 says that we have not because we ask not. Perhaps the reason we do not ask is because we either do not think we need to or we do not realize our need. We even need to ask God to show us our need. I have been asking Him to show me my need without having to go though some terrible experience in order to see it. That is one way we can learn of our need—to go through something terrible where God really gets our attention. I am certain there is an easier way to learn.
Did you ever struggle with a besetting sin? Most historic Seventh-day Adventists are not open sinners. Most of the sins with which we deal are in our thoughts—thoughts of lust, coveting, impatience, pride and anger. Do you ever cry out to God and say, “If You do not fix me, I am never going to get fixed”? That is a prayer that works well. It is amazing what God will do, when you cry out like that. Tell Him that you know that if He does not save you, you will be lost. Pray, “Lord, save me, or I will perish.” (See Our High Calling, 131.) We are told that as long as we pray that in sincerity, we will never be lost. Do you pray that? Do you cry out to God like that? If not, what will it take to get you to that point?
Remember, God had to strike Paul with blindness to get his attention. Peter was a good man, but he had to deny his Lord before God could get his attention. What will you have to go through?
Just a Little Shove
“And one of the Pharisees [Simon] desired him [Christ] that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that [Jesus] sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind [him] weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe [them] with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed [them] with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw [it], he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman [this is] that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that [he], to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped [them] with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, [the same] loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” Luke 7:36–50.
Simon had a problem. He owed 500 pence, but he thought he only owed 50 pence. He thought everyone else owed 500, but not him. He thought that surely he was not as low as the prostitute. He definitely knew that for a fact. On the other hand, Mary had what we all need. She saw herself, like Paul, the chief of sinners. She did not have a pride problem. She knew that she had sinned much and had been forgiven much. But Simon had only sinned a little bit in his mind, and he had only been forgiven a little bit. All the others needed a lot of help, he thought, but in his mind, he only needed that little bit of a shove to get into the kingdom.
Are you like Simon, or are you like Mary? What is your attitude? What are your thoughts of your condition? Do you only need that little shove?
Lord, Help Us
Many men and women whom God has used powerfully over the years have had to learn some really hard lessons in the last few years, because they did not know their true conditions. I have had to say to God, “You know the evil thoughts in my mind. I know some of them, but You know them all. Reveal them to me, when I can handle them.”
God does not show us all of our problems at once, or it would kill us. We would die of guilt. “The path of the just [is] as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4:18. It is like the sun coming up in the east. It comes up gradually, and our eyes adjust to it; it does not flip instantly on at high noon. That is the way God reveals things to us.
As He reveals our sins to us, we should ask Him to make those sins revolting to us, to give us an absolute hatred for them. Ask for the enmity that He promised in Genesis 3:15. We should ask Him to teach us to love the things He loves and to hate the things He hates. We should plead with Him that He will not allow us to ruin our reputations and our influences and bring shame to Him and His work or to cause others to stumble. We should pray that, as He helps us, we will not get puffed up or forget that He has given us victories; we have done nothing in our own power. Let us plead with Him to keep us humble and dependent on Him always.
“Let us not forget that as activity increases, and we become successful in doing the work that must be accomplished, there is danger of our trusting in human plans and methods. There will be a tendency to pray less, and to have less faith. We shall be in danger of losing our sense of dependence upon God, who alone can make our work succeed; but although this is the tendency, let no one think that the human instrument is to do less. No, he is not to do less, but to do more by accepting the heavenly gift, the Holy Spirit.” Review and Herald, July 4, 1893.
Christ’s will, His work, His teachings, His doctrines, His decisions were all from His Father. He did nothing of Himself. He stayed connected continually to His Father. Do we stay connected? Do we realize the need to stay connected?
Sift as Wheat
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired [to have] you, that he may sift [you] as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Luke 22:31, 32. When Peter was sifted, he found that he was unconverted. He, fortunately, was given a second chance. There is coming a day when Satan is going to sift every one of us, and there will not be a second chance, because probation is going to close.
God has been protecting us in our weaknesses for years, but one of these days He is going to have to back off and let Satan sift us. We know that we are going to be sifted, but we should learn from Peter’s mistake, because if we repeat it in the time in which we are living, there may not be another chance to get it right.
We have to trust and obey and cooperate with God. There is a battle to fight to enter into God’s kingdom. Are we converted? Are we converted from dependence on ourselves? Is our dependence on God? Are we surrendered?
“Many are inquiring, ‘How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?’ You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart; you cannot, of yourself, give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13.) Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.
“Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.” Steps to Christ, 47, 48.
Many of us do not come to that point. We do not now choose to be Christians.
Exercise of Will
“Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life.” Ibid., 48. What is the next logical question we ought to ask? What does it mean, “the right exercise of the will”?
Mrs. White explains, “By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers.” Ibid.
I used to read that statement, and I heard it used in lots of different sermons. People would quote it a lot and say, “Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life.” And I would read, “You will be in constant peril until you understand the true force of the will.” Messages to Young People, 151. And, “Everything depends on the right action of the will.” The Ministry of Healing, 176. The thought that came to my mind was that I need to get my will directed in the right direction!
Getting our wills turned in the right direction is possible only as we yield them to Christ. We must ask Him to take our wills and make them in harmony with His. We cannot grit our teeth and try to twist our wills into shape; God will do the work. That is the only way it will happen. “You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith.” Steps to Christ, 48.
Are you converted from self-dependence to dependence upon God? If not, what will it take? I urge you to pray about it. On the authority of truth, I can guarantee you that if you ask Him, He will answer your prayer.
Righteousness by Faith
We need righteousness by faith to be able to stand in the last days. “What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are pre-pared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, 117. It could be stated just the opposite. If we do not see our own nothingness, we are not pre-pared to receive Christ’s righteousness.
Do you want to see your own nothingness, so you can be clothed with the righteousness of Christ? If that is your desire, ask God right now to reveal to you your nothingness, and ask Him to take away your dependence on self and give you total dependence on Him.
Steve Currey is a Bible worker for Steps to Life. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.